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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Extraterrestrial debris – NASA Examines Unidentified Elements in Mars Rover Sample System

The hairline object is clear to see in an image from August 4 that was highlighted in the update. It appears to be a small, loose thread that could come loose from a shirt button.

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Shweta Routh
Shweta Routh
Shweta Routh is a third-year student at KIIT University's School of Mass Communication. Her ambition is to become a good journalist and serve her country. She is a classical dancer who enjoys meeting new people and trying new things. * Views are personal

Some positive and some peculiar news have come from Mars. The good news first: NASA’s Perseverance rover successfully collected its twelfth rock core sample, stowing away a tiny fragment of the red planet in a tube for safekeeping. The rover team discovered some strange objects stuck on the sample system, which is now peculiar news.

The rover photographs some of the sampling system’s parts up close as part of its post-sampling procedure. A small object on the coring bit, which is stored in the bit carousel, and a small hairline object on the drill chuck were both visible on those images, according to NASA JPL Project Manager Art Thompson in a rover update on Friday.

The hairline object is clear to see in an image from August 4 that was highlighted in the update. It appears to be a small, loose thread that could come loose from a shirt button.

The debris may have come from the rover, or it could be leftover from the entry, descent, and landing (EDL) system that brought the rover to Mars in early 2021, according to Percy’s team, who are currently trying to determine where it came from.

Perseverance has seen quite a few pieces of mysterious debris, including a tangle that resembled noodles but was probably a small piece of netting from the EDL that had blown across the landscape from the location where the landing system had crashed down 1.24 miles (2 kilometres) away.

The bit carousel experienced a previous debris problem at the end of 2021 when some tiny pebbles impeded the storage of a sample. The group was able to move the small rocks out of the way so that the rover could continue its crucial sampling work. NASA plans to send two new helicopters to Mars as part of an ambitious return mission that is still in the planning stages in order to bring those collected pieces of Mars back to Earth.

Perseverance is investigating the Jezero Crater’s ancient river delta. Scientists might learn whether microbial life has ever existed on Mars from the samples collected there.

The Perseverance team had expressed some worry about possible contamination of the sample tubes when looking into the netting debris. The rover is capturing more images of its tools from various perspectives and is getting a better look at the area of ground where it collected the sample.

As NASA tries to figure out what kind of debris it is, Thompson said that additional imaging and other diagnostic activities might start early this week.

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